Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

90-year-old says volunteer work for Sheriff's Office helps keep him young

NEW PORT RICHEY

Frank Hunt drove to two Publix stores and a Walmart. But it wasn't until later in the day that he spotted his first offender.

At the Heart Institute at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point, a white Dodge was parked in a blue-striped spot, a blue handicap permit hanging in the windshield. The permit, dated 4-16, was expired.

"That's a ticket," Hunt said.

At age 90, Hunt is the oldest volunteer for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

As part of his duties, two days a week, he walks the entire length of the Walmart parking lot's handicap rows, checking each and every windshield and license plate for violations.

On a Thursday in late May, he was asked how his morning was going.

"Well," he said. "I'm walking."

• • •

Hunt has lived in Florida for more than 30 years. He is one of America's dwindling number of surviving World War II veterans.

He retired from a career in the printing industry in 1986 and began volunteering for the Sheriff's Office in 1999 when he read about its Civilian Service Unit in the newspaper.

Checking for handicap permits is Hunt's way of feeling connected, he said.

"I get to get out and see what's going on in the world."

Hunt's world changed when he turned 18. It was January 1945, a month after his birthday, when the Army drafted him into a round of replacement troops headed for Japan.

A "Yankee," Hunt was born and raised in Dorchester, Mass., a neighborhood of south Boston. Because of his late draft date, he was part of the California division of replacement troops that served in the Philippines, Okinawa and Korea.

"I lived on the East Coast, and they sent me halfway around the world," he said.

In 1947, he came home to an America he hardly recognized.

Like many of his friends, he had been stripped of his chance at a higher education. Businesses tried to return to normal, but often couldn't find work for veterans. He knew many veterans who couldn't find jobs.

Hunt, then 20, found work in an auto shop, where, by chance, he met an elderly man from Boston. The stranger asked Hunt, "How would you like a job in printing?"

Hunt took a job at Global Tickets. He and his wife, Elizabeth, moved out of his mother-in-law's home and into a two-bedroom apartment downtown. The couple had to convert the second bedroom into a kitchen.

"Those were tough times," he said. "Some of us were saying, 'What the hell did we fight the war for?' "

Hunt worked for Chicago-based GTE, printing phone books, for 35 years.

During that time, he and his wife had two sons. Hunt remembers his feelings of anxiety when his older son had to register for the Vietnam War draft.

"Fortunately, he didn't get drafted," Hunt said, adding that his son had an unusually high draft number. "I was tickled pink that he didn't."

• • •

When he volunteers with the Sheriff's Office, Hunt wears the official Pasco County Citizen Service Unit uniform: dark pants and a light shirt with Pasco County Sheriff's Office patches.

He is a true asset to the community, sheriff's Lt. David Rodriguez said. Many veterans volunteer with the unit, so there is a lot of camaraderie among the group, he said.

"He's very humble about his military experience," Rodriguez said. "He's 90 years old, he volunteered to serve his country and he still comes in to volunteer."

Hunt walked the entire parking lot at Walmart. It was sunny, so he wore his aviator shades.

He walked from car to car, first checking for the expiration dates on the hanging permits, then the license plates.

"17 ... 20 ... 16," he said as checked the years on the permits. "Ah. 6-16. That's getting close."

He passed a truck with a permit that sat discreetly on the dashboard, barely visible. He placed a "do's and don'ts" pamphlet under the windshield wiper.

Even though he doesn't like doing it, he confronted a woman in the passenger seat of a car sitting idly in a fire lane.

"That's illegal," he told her.

She assured him her husband would be right out.

"They always have excuses," he said later. No one wants to pay a $250 parking ticket.

Hunt tries to avoid the car owners as much as he can. He doesn't like when angry people shout in his face. His response is to let them yell.

"Act as if you didn't hear what they said," he said, and added, "I'm a coward."

The experiences aren't always volatile. At Publix, a woman passed Hunt on her way to her car. Hunt waved and said hello.

"That helps the sheriff's department out quite a bit," he said.

• • •

Hunt works on Wednesdays and Thursdays. He once volunteered more frequently, but wanted to spend more time with Elizabeth, so he reduced his hours.

In their free time, the couple often drive to the beach in Hudson and stop for ice cream. Hunt likes to get vanilla, sometimes chocolate, depending on the day.

He said he never wanted to be an old man "sitting around watching TV." Volunteering for the Sheriff's Office has kept him young.

"The older you get, your brain starts to fade a little bit," he explained.

Last month, the Honor Flight Network, a nonprofit organization that flies veterans to Washington, D.C., invited Hunt and his son on a free trip to see the nation's war memorials. During the trip, Hunt looked for veterans who served in his outfit.

"We dispersed through life," he said. "I can't say I've met anybody that I served with."

Hunt walked the entire monument trail on his own.

He said his son asked if he would appreciate a wheelchair.

"I'm not ready for that yet," Hunt said.

Contact Hannah Alani at halani@tampabay.com or (813) 909-4617. Follow @hannahalani.

90-year-old says volunteer work for Sheriff's Office helps keep him young 06/16/16 [Last modified: Thursday, June 16, 2016 4:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. What you need to know for Thursday, June 29

    News

    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    See that thing in the water? No? That's the point. It's that time of the year when stingrays are often lurking in the sand, often not visibly. Remember to do the stingray shuffle if you're out at the beach this weekend. [JIM DAMASKE | Times]
  2. Pinellas beaches seeing fewer injuries from stingrays, but the summer is still young

    Environment

    FORT DE SOTO — Rebecca Glidden leaned back in her lifeguard chair, watching behind sunglasses as families splashed in the water at Fort De Soto's North Beach.

    A Clearwater water safety supervisor demonstrates the stingray shuffle. Pinellas beaches are reporting relatively few injuries from stingrays so far this year, but they anticipate more as the summer wears on. Officials are reminding beachgoers to do the shuffle when they enter the water and keep an eye out for purple flags flying from the lifeguard towers, which indicate stingray activity. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  3. Weeki Wachee River advocates agree to work to resolve issues

    Local Government

    WEEKI WACHEE — Degradation of the Weeki Wachee River is a complex mix of circumstances, with a variety of jurisdictions holding the authority to fix the problems. That has made finding solutions over the years more about frustration than success.

    A boat and kayak drift into one another as they share the narrow passage near Rogers Park on the Weeki Wachee River in March. Advocates fear too many vessels are damaging the river.
  4. Despite change in Cuba policy, cruise ships sail on

    Tourism

    TAMPA -- It's smooth sailing for cruises from Tampa to Havana, with the first of Carnival Cruise Line's 12 such excursions launching today, two months after Royal Caribbean's initial voyage from Port Tampa Bay to the island.

    The Empress of the Seas cruise ship docks at the Port Tampa Bay Cruise Terminal 3 in Tampa. President Donald 

Trump's new Cuba policy may not hurt cruises to Havana at all. In fact, it may help these cruises. CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times
  5. Lien forgiveness program aimed at blighted properties in Zephyrhills

    Local Government

    ZEPHYRHILLS — The city will begin offering a new residential lien forgiveness program in an effort to encourage improvements to properties and home ownership.

    City Manager Steve Spina said it is geared to foreclosures and properties for sale.